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48 Hours in London: The free things to do

London is a multicultural metropolis that is known for its high costs, but every traveller should know that the city has world-class attractions that are completely free. We’ve put together a guide to help you see the city in 48 hours without spending any money.

With one English Pound costing around $1.40 American, it has never been a better time to visit England. Even though the exchange is favorable, there’s still plenty of must-see sites that won’t cost you a penny… I mean pence.

 

Day one

Regardless of your arrival time, start your day at the Tower Hill tube station. As soon as you step outside, you’ll get a clear view of the famous Tower of London which once served as a royal palace, fortress, prison and place of execution. There is an admission charge to the Tower, but the nightly ceremony of the keys is free when booked online in advance.

Right beside the Tower of London is one of the city’s most recognize sites, Tower Bridge. Cross that by foot and you’ll be right in front of City Hall. The unusual shape of the building helps with energy preservation. Walk a bit further west and you’ll quickly come to the HMS Belfast which saw battle during the second world war and is now a museum ship. Many people prefer to just pose for a picture since there is an admission fee to enter the ship.

If you haven’t noticed by now, poking out of the skyline just to the south is The Shard, the tallest building in London standing at 309.6 meters (1,016 ft) which is worth snapping a quick picture of. By now you may be feeling peckish, head over to Borough Market where you can pick up some locally sourced food to snack on. Even if you’re not hungry, walking through the market is a must just to soak up the atmosphere.

Make your way back towards the River Thames and continue west. You’ll pass by Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse Globe Theatre and the Millennium Bridge, but it’s the Tate Modern that should interest you the most. Admission to this contemporary and modern art gallery is free with the star attraction arguably being the special works commissioned for the enormous Turbine Hall every year.

If you’re travelling with little ones, the Southbank Centre may be of more interest to them. There are free things to see across the site including art, performances, activities, workshops, talks, and exhibitions. If you happen to be visiting on a weekend, be sure to head outside and grab a quick snack at the Southbank Centre Food Market.

Before you call it a night, just around the bend is the London Eye. The giant Ferris wheel will cost you a small fortune to ride, so you may want to just want to walk across Westminster Bridge instead to get an up-close look at the iconic Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.

 

Palace of Westminster

Day Two

Your first day was busy so feel free to sleep in before making your way to Buckingham Palace to catch the Changing the Guard ceremony which takes place at 11:30 a.m. The ceremony has been performed since 1660 and takes about 45 minutes to complete.

After the ceremony ends, take a quick walk down The Mall will take you to the “center of the city,” Trafalgar Square where you’ll find many statues and monuments commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar. The square has been a significant landmark since the 13th century and is overlooked by the National Gallery. Admission to the art museum is free so don’t miss some art masterpieces including: Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks.

Find cheap flights to London

If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to stop for a meal. Just a 5-minute walk away is London’s Soho area where you’ll find plenty of dining options. Nearby is Piccadilly Circus, the “Times Square” of London where massive electronic boards of advertisements and the statue of Anteros can be found. While you’re here you might as well check out Regent, Carnaby, and Oxford streets which have some of the best shopping options in the city.

End the afternoon by visiting the British Museum which is home to some civilization’s best artifacts including the Rosetta Stone which was instrumental in helping researchers decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Elgin Marbles, Greek marble sculptures that were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon in Athens.

Finally, before you depart, do try to catch a view from 20 Fenchurch Street. Many locals criticize the look of the building and have nicknamed it ‘The Walkie-Talkie,’ but no one will deny the epic views of London’s SouthBank from the Sky Garden located on the 35th floor. Admission is free, but you must book your viewing well in advance.

For more ideas of free things to do in London, check out the Visit Britain website.

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About the Author

Barry Choi / Money We Have

Barry Choi is a Canadian personal finance & travel expert. He makes regular media appearances in Canada & the US where he shares his top tips on money and has favourite travel destinations.

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